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  • The Top Ten Grant Museum Blogs of 2016

    By Jack Ashby, on 9 January 2017

    History will most likely look back on 2016 as a reasonably significant year – you don’t need reminding why. It’s probably fair to say that the activities of the Grant Museum will not feature highly in the list of major global events, but nevertheless we like to think we had a positive impact on the lives of our supporters and visitors last year, both physically and digitally.

    Team Grant had plenty to cheer about in 2016: our two exhibitions were based on artistic ways of looking at scientific topics. First was Skullpture, when we invited the Sculpture students from the Slade School of Fine Art to takeover the museum with their responses to our collection and history. Then, with Natural Creativity: Sex and Trickery we displayed a collection of stunning drawings by Clara Lacy depicting the species that are being studied by biologists in the UCL Department of Genetics, Evolution and the Environment: the sexual preferences, sex determination and sexual selection in the animal kingdom.

    In terms of our collections, we reached a giant milestone last year – we finally know where every single specimen stored in the museum space is, possibly for the first time in our 190 year history. We’ve also been focusing our conservation work on our collection of wet specimens, with Project Pickle. We’ve had a really ambitious events programme too, the pinnacle being the dissection of cheetah by a team of five reseachers in front of a huge audience of over 300… It was a busy year.

    As a way of looking back, on Twitter over the past week we’ve been counting down the best of 2016’s blog – the Top Ten most viewed Grant Museum posts of last year*.

    I’ve announced those ranking at 10 to 2 in the charts, and exclusively revealing here that the most popular post of 2016 is… (more…)

    Underwhelming fossil fish of the Month December 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 December 2016

    2016 was the most overwhelmingly underwhelming year of the last twelve months.

    But it wasn’t the only thing that disappointed in month by month instalments. Yes, of course I’m talking about the Grant Museum of Zoology’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month blog series. The monthly foray into the drawers and drawers of underwhelming fossil fishes at the Grant Museum brings you the finest worst selection of least best fossil fish. We ask the tough questions such as why are these fossils here? Which way around is this one supposed to go and what does this label say. This is the blunt edge of science right here.

    Of course, I’ve got an especially unspecial fossil fish to round off the year. Vast expense was spared to bring you just another underwhelming fossil fish to mark one step closer to your inevitable end. First up though, it’s END OF YEAR ROUND-UP FILLER CONTENT. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month November 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 November 2016

    These are troubling times. Troubling and worrying times. Hope is an endangered species. You can feel it can’t you? Spin the wheel of woe, the only consolation possible is that you guessed correctly what destroyed the privileged civilisation as we know it. Was it climate in the end? Was it hatred? Was it intolerance? It doesn’t matter now of course. You’ll realise then what you suspect now, childish notions of justice winning out in the end were just that. There is no beacon of light on the horizon. In fact, the future is so pitch black in its nothingness that the next step could be the one into the abyss and you wouldn’t even know. So look to the horizon now, it’s petrifying isn’t it?

    Petrification is also the process by which some organic matter exposed to minerals over a long period is turned into fossils. Welcome to this month’s underwhelming fossil fish of the month our monthly foray into the Grant Museum’s underwhelming fossil fish collection on a monthly basis. Month. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month October 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 October 2016

    Today, Monday the 31st of October 2016, is a very special day and I can’t believe we’ve managed to co-ordinate October’s Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month, a monthly foray into the Grant Museum’s vast collection of underwhelming fish fossils, to go out on the exact date.

    Exactly, precisely on this day 419.2 million years ago, give or take 3 million years, the Devonian Period began marking the beginning of the Age of Fishes.

    Since the Devonian Period, fish have been the most dominant group of vertebrates on the planet, accounting for about half of all described vertebrate species today. Controversially, mammals have tried to claim that the key events in their evolutionary history warrant their own ages, however, the legitimacy of the alleged ‘Age of Reptiles‘ and so-called ‘Age of Mammals‘ are not officially recognised outside of human communities. Today, we are still very much in the Age of Fishes and in order to celebrate such a key date, in typical UFFotM style, we’ve not really gone for anything special at all actually. This month’s fossil fish is of Devonian age, but aside from just being a coincidence, as I’ve just demonstrated, technically we are all of Devonian age.

    Take some time out of your Age of Fishes, #DevonianDay celebrations and have a look at this underwhelming fossil fish. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month September 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 September 2016

    The ides of October are almost upon us which means many things. One of the least noteworthy things it means, however, is that it’s time for another underwhelming fossil fish of the month. In this confusingly titled series, we look at an underwhelming fossil fish from the Grant Museum of Zoology collection every month. Unlike the plastic dinosaur casts and errr more plastic dinosaurs casts, these poor fossil fish, which fill the drawers of museum collections, rarely make it into displays and exhibitions. If they do, like this recently spotted specimen on display at Scarborough’s Rotunda Museum, there’s not much to say about them beyond ‘Fish’. Or is there? (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: August 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 August 2016

    August is typically the month that people occupy themselves with science until the sports season begins again in the autumn. In fact the word summer comes from the Proto-Germanic sumur which roughly translates as ‘the season in which we do not occupy ourselves with sports but instead spend a lot of time doing science’* So with so many people doing science this summer, and who aren’t engaged in sport or watching or thinking about sport, I’m hoping that we can fulfil the mission of this blog post series. The humble mission of this monthly blog series featuring underwhelming fossil fish from the Grant Museum collection is:

    all I’m asking you to do is look at it, observe it, take some time to ponder upon it and perhaps tell a friend about it. Together we’ll increase the global fossil fishteracy one fossil fish at a time.

    Regular readers of this series will know that this isn’t sell-out science. There’s no record breakers here. All we have is a rather dull fossil fish to contemplate. Will we learn something? Probably not. Will it pass the time? Depends how fast you read I guess. So without further ado, loosen your belt of expectation and let’s see this month’s fragmented fossil fish. (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: July 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 28 July 2016

    Welcome to the 44th underwhelming fossil fish of the month! I did some calculations and that’s 3.6666666666667 years of underwhelming fossil fish. Lesser websites would call that a cause for celebration but for UFFotM, we don’t let such astonishing milestones get in the way of a dry and boring examination of a fossil fish from the Grant Museum of Zoology’s collections.

    As you probably undoubtedly know, London Art Week was earlier this month and the Victoria and Albert Museum won the 2016 ArtFund Museum of Year Award so this month’s underwhelming fossil fish is brought to you in the style of a “gallery-based celebration of pre-contemporary art” in solidarity with our colleagues across the Arts sector and in the hope of an award too.

    (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: June 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 30 June 2016

    It has been a month. That is for sure. But I tell you who won’t be worrying about their future, or screaming into a brown paper bag, or asking if anyone competent is actually in charge of anything at a time when that kind of thing seems very important. Underwhelming fossil fish in museum drawers that’s who.

    That’s right, we’re back with our monthly series, taking time away from the chaotic world to look at and if you’re feeling sassy perhaps shrug a shoulder or two at an underwhelming fossil fish from the Grant Museum of Zoology’s collections. The worst a fossil fish has to look forward to is nothing as fossil fish cannot contemplate anything. They are made of stone. Those lucky fishy fossily fellows.

    This month’s fossil fish, out of pure chance, is from John o’ Groats. John o’ Groats used to be a man but it is now a village in Scotland. John o’ Groats currently lies on Britain’s northeastern tip and is famous for being one end of the longest trip you could take between two British settlements, the other end being Land’s End in Cornwall. This fossil was once a complete fish but sadly the taphonomic processes have ‘made it great again’ meaning it is now fragmented, no longer whole and far less interesting for it too, fortunately for us.

    This month we’ve got overlabelling highlighting historical less-than-best practice in museum labelling which I know is at the forefront of all of our minds at the moment. Let’s have a look shall we?

    (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: May 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 31 May 2016

    WARNING, WARNING! We got a looker this month boys and girls. Underwhelming fossil fish come in all shapes and sizes, some are virtually nothing, others inspire great works of art but once in a while we get one that is surprisingly and distinctly fish shaped. It’s still not very interesting to anyone but the most love blind of the fossil fish fanatics and for that we shall dutifully analyse, precisely and scientifically, via the well established ‘Top Trump categories’ method the ways in which it is uninteresting.

    For those of you unsure as to how you got to this part of the Internet and still not quite sure what’s going on, you’ve arrived at the latest entry of Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month. Fossil collections are full of specimens of animals you won’t have heard of, can’t really imagine and even if you could imagine them, they weren’t really worth the effort in the first place. We could sex them up a bit by making up animals like those naughty fossil reptile palaeontologists but this is not the fish way. Instead we’ll celebrate them the only way we can, with an analysis of their rather dry and esoteric history.

    If you are of a delicate fortitude or can’t handle too much fossil fish at once, I’m going to ease you into this month’s let down specimen… (more…)

    Underwhelming Fossil Fish of the Month: April 2016

    By Mark Carnall, on 29 April 2016

    Since the last Underwhelming Fossil Fish, we’ve been betrayed comrades. Last month, one of our own, a hitherto underwhelming fossil fish got interesting, as hacks reported. Of course, nobody remembers this news now but the underwhelming fossil fish of the month community was rocked so hard by this betrayal, et tu Tully Monster?, that there wasn’t an underwhelming fossil fish of the month for March 2016, the first ever break in the series. In a touching act of solidarity, appropriately for the series, nobody even seemed to notice. This month, there haven’t been any more turncoats so we can get back to the business of this blog series, that is to celebrate the unremarkable fossil fish in museum collections precisely for their distinctive uninterestingness.

    This month, widely heralded on the Twitter as #TheReturnOfFossilFish, I’ve got a specimen that’s appropriately uncommemorating in any way, unless slightly resembling a bald person’s head whilst they are frowning, is at all commemorative. (more…)